Are you ready for the next emergency?

11 October 2017

When faced with an emergency situation, people working in health cannot just shut up shop and go home till things return to normal. Vulnerable people in our community need care regardless of what is going on around them, says Hauora Tairāwhiti Emergency Response Coordinator Steve Hooper. This was certainly borne out last year when Gisborne found itself without power for three days.

“We have a generator at Gisborne Hospital that keeps things ticking over for acute patients. However, as the district health board, Hauora Tairāwhiti has a responsibility to respond to the health needs of all Tairāwhiti people in an emergency, not just those in hospital.

“That means we need to work with rest homes, general practices and pharmacies so they can keep providing essential care. It also means that people who need to use lifesaving equipment in their homes – like dialysis, oxygen or feeding machines - can continue to do so.

“We knew the power cut was going to last longer than 24 hours, so we made sure we had an Incident Management Centre set up to coordinate our response to the situation. We linked closely with Civil Defence and made sure we had information flowing. We brought people together who were trained to manage emergency situations and who had the authority to make decisions about what was needed.

“For example, Hauora Tairāwhiti’s Tangata Rite Building in Peel Street does not have a generator. Staff normally based there, who were not assisting people in the community, were brought down to the Hospital to help with the response. This worked really well as many staff based there have good links with people and organisations in the community. We will do the same for future emergency events particularly floods, earthquakes and tsunami.

‘Contacting vulnerable people in the community who were under our care was a priority. For example, people on home dialysis were bought into the dialysis unit for treatment and some who relied on electric beds or oxygen needed to be brought into hospital. Some went to Kiri te Kanawa Rest home who have their own generator.

‘The power cut has been a catalyst to get more people in health thinking about what they will do in an emergency. Many Hauora Tairāwhiti departments have now reviewed their Business Continuity and Emergency Response plans. 

“All general practices and rest homes must have an emergency plan and I have been working with them to get these completed or updated. While it is not viable for all to have a backup generator; having a contract with a local generator provider and getting the business wired to be able to use it easily and effectively is a good alternative.

Te Wiremu House is one place that has been very proactive with their emergency planning.

We are wired to plug an emergency generator into our mains, says Manager Lynette Stankovich. “We also have complete emergency kits in each area of the rest home. They get brought out at staff and evacuation training so staff know where they are and what is in them.”


Lynette Stankovich and Terry Rickard

Lynette Stankovich and Terry Rickard check out their emergency kit.